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Falcao and Atletico eye Barca in race for top

MADRID, Spain, October 26 – The leadership of La Liga is in play over two consecutive nights in the Spanish capital this weekend, but without the involvement of Real Madrid.

The defending champions are at Mallorca on Sunday and currently sit in fourth position.

They are eight points behind joint leaders Barcelona, who visit Rayo Vallecano on Saturday, and city rivals Atletico Madrid who host Osasuna on Sunday.

Atletico, level on 22 points with Barcelona, have won seven straight league games since the opening day of the season and are full of confidence.

Radamel Falcao is in stunning form after scoring in each of his last 10 matches, with a total of 16 strikes in that period, including four in three games for the Colombian national side.

After being rested from the Europa League on Thursday, he will be looking to add to his league tally of 10 goals, that includes the last minute free-kick he hit for an important 1-0 victory at Real Sociedad last weekend.

Atletico coach Diego Simeone has no doubts when placing Falcao at the very top of the world game at the moment.

“He is currently amongst the three best players in the world, he has been top scorer in the last two Europa Leagues and won them, he has won the European Supercup and although (Lionel) Messi and Cristiano (Ronaldo) have had other successes he really is right up with them and their high standards,” said Simeone.

“There are few finishers like him around and he is getting better in every match. He knows the penalty area is his natural habitat and he is becoming more aggressive and decisive in there.”

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One player who could be rejoining Falcao in Atletico’s side on Sunday is Turkish winger Arda Turan, whose presence was missed during the win at Sociedad.

“Arda gives us something different, he shapes our attacking play so we hope to have him back soon, but it’s a long league and we need him back in the best shape possible, so we’ll see if he makes it in time for Sunday,” Simeone added.

Barcelona have also been amongst the goals in recent weeks, having shared 18 with the opposition in their last three league games.

The surprise is that they have conceded eight in those games, and although they dropped the only points of the season so far in the recent 2-2 draw with Real Madrid, they did manage to outscore Sevilla and Deportivo La Coruna, 3-2 and 5-4 respectively, both away from home.

However, with injuries keeping out a full back-four of Gerard Pique, Carles Puyol, Dani Alves and Jordi Alba in that time, it is little wonder the Catalans have suffered at the back.

With Alba already back and Alves in contention to play at Rayo on Saturday, the worst of their defensive problems may be over, but stand-in centre-back Javier Mascherano will not be available through suspension after being sent-off at Deportivo.

Third place Malaga, five points behind the leaders, and fresh from their third straight Champions League win over AC Milan on Wednesday, travel to Espanyol who are joint bottom with Osasuna.

Madrid go to Mallorca with more injury problems after Sami Khedira limped out of Wednesday’s Champions League defeat at Borussia Dortmund with a recurrence of a thigh injury.

The German international was one of seven Madrid players who came back with injury from international duty recently and sat out of last weekend’s win over Celta Vigo.

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Coach Jose Mourinho will have to choose between Luka Modric or Kaka, who both started against Celta, as a replacement if the German does not recover in time.


Espanyol v Malaga (1400 GMT), Betis v Valencia (1600 GMT), Celta v Deportivo (1800 GMT), Rayo Vallecano v Barcelona (2000 GMT)


Zaragoza v Sevilla (1100 GMT), Levante v Granada (1500 GMT), Athletic Bilbao v Getafe (1650 GMT), Atletico Madrid v Osasuna (1845 GMT), Mallorca v Real Madrid (2030 GMT)


Valladolid v Real Sociedad (2030 GMT)

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